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Opening the ICU: views of ICU doctors and nurses before and after liberalization of visiting policies


Italian ICUs still impose restrictive visiting policies (with a median visiting time of about 2 hours/day); however, a revision of current policies is underway [13]. No data are available on the views of Italian ICU teams following an at least partial liberalization of visiting policies. We investigated this issue in the course of a survey about the impact on ICU teams of the liberalization of visiting policies.


We administered an anonymous closed-question questionnaire to nurses and doctors at eight ICUs that were about to increase daily visiting time to at least 8 hours, soliciting their views on policy changes in their unit. The ICU staff were asked to fill in the same questionnaire a year after implementation.


The first response rate was 91% (234/258), the second 76% (197/258). In the first instance, 83% of doctors and 67% of nurses expressed a favourable opinion regarding the change in visiting policy. After 1 year a positive opinion was expressed by 84% of doctors and 63% of nurses. Both phases of the study show a significant predominance of positive opinions among doctors (P = 0.032 and 0.005).


Most ICU staff members view the opening of the unit positively, and on the whole maintain this opinion 1 year after the policy change. Overall, the attitude of doctors is more favourable than that of nurses. It is essential to build up a picture of the difficulties that liberalizing visiting could create for ICU staff (and particularly for nurses), and to explore the causes and extent of such difficulties, in order to identify possible solutions and offer nurses and doctors appropriate support.


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The study was supported by Associazione per il Bambino Nefropatico (Milan, Italy).

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Giannini, A., Miccinesi, G., Prandi, E. et al. Opening the ICU: views of ICU doctors and nurses before and after liberalization of visiting policies. Crit Care 16, P492 (2012).

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  • Public Health
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Staff Member
  • Policy Change
  • Current Policy